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Started: 09 July 2016
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Started: 09 July 2016
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Tributes to Gareth Thomas 1945-2016
Sadly, Gareth Thomas – ‘Blake’ to so many – is gone.
It is very hard to write this…
He and I were a part – he the eponymous hero – of a now cult TV series.
We had tremendous fun doing it and remained friends when it finished. (Except – it hasn’t really!)
A fine actor, with a fine voice – so typical of his fellow countrymen – his laughter was always infectious. It’s a cliché – but he will be remembered with deep affection.
Avon - and I - shed a tear for him.
I had the privilege of working with Gareth for two years in the late 70s, it was my first big television job and I have to say he was so kind and generous to me as a young inexperienced actress. He was very talented and perfect casting for Roj Blake... handsome, fearless, and above all a man with integrity who cared about making a difference. I feel very sad that he died so young, it feels like the end of an area that defined many of our lives.
It was with great sadness I heard about the passing of my good friend Gareth Thomas. I remember back in 1977, when we started making the series Blakes Seven, how supportive he was of me as I had had very little experience in television. I also remember the joy of rehearsals and the good humour that he brought to bear. His impressions of some of our Blakes Seven directors and floor managers rivalled those of Mike Yarwood!
I had the good fortune to work with Gareth again some years later on an episode of Casualty in Bristol, and what fun that was.
So very, very sad the teleport won't work this time. Much love, admiration and fun and fond memories!
Much Love from Callyxxx
Dear Gareth RIP
I was very saddened to learn of the death of my old friend Gareth Thomas.
I met him first at RADA when as a green first termer, he - a much wiser 4th termer - came and gave us all a talk with such energetic and disarming charm that he put us at our ease and looking forward to the adventure to come. Then at the RSC and later on Blake’s 7 where as adversaries we rehearsed long and hard to make our scenes as alive and confrontational as possible. It was joyful working with him and equally so when we met years later at Sci-Fi conventions and chatted merrily away about our past shared experiences over a drink or two, or in Gareth’s case five or six. It’s a good man's failing and Gareth Thomas was a truly good man. I’m going to miss him.
Gareth BLAKE ....It was all just an illusion! Take care Big Man!
I had the pleasure of working with Gareth Thomas on Series 2 of Blake's 7 and, though we saw each other infrequently in the years to follow, I like to think that we were friends. He always greeted me with a hug and that wonderful smile that made you feel all was well with the world.
Whilst there are many stories about Gareth and his work, this one is personal to me and how our friendship worked. I was working for David Maloney, then Producer of Blake's 7, so I had a lot of interaction with the cast and crew. One day, I think we were at the Acton Rehearsal Rooms, I entered the room to be greeted by Gareth: "Here comes Hatchet". Well, how do you respond to that? I didn't know whether he was joking or if this was a serious comment. I didn't respond, but my silence must have clued him in and later that day he explained. Much though they all liked and respected David Maloney, they had realised that he would send me in to deliver bad news, such as changes to schedules, etc. So Gareth had decided that I was David's 'hatchet man' (or woman). I can't say that I was ever fond of the nickname but I did realise that the cast had accepted me into their circle and that Gareth, in particular, had adopted me. He was incredibly astute in reading people and adept at ensuring that all was well.
As an actor he was intelligent, skilled, dedicated, convincing (particularly on stage) and as a human being he was kind, generous, impish, huggable and all round outstanding. As I said earlier, I didn't see him often but I do miss him.
I can't recall the first time I met Gareth Thomas properly. I saw him at EdgeCon in 1982 and found him charming and urbane and strikingly smart and intelligent on stage - I'm pretty certain we would have said hello then, because Sheelagh Wells would have introduced us.
The next time we really interacted was at a BBC Video launch I was helping coordinate for BBC Video, when they released the first season of Blake on VHS in mid-1995. This took place at Peter Stringfellow's cabaret bar in St Martin's Lane, probably the weirdest choice of venue possible - someone at BBC Video thought it resembled a Blake's 7 set. I was never sure which one! I had the job of interviewing each of the assembled guests for the press junket. Stephen Greif, whom I had known since I was about 13, was there and he made sure all the actors were lovely to me, and Gareth was amongst the loveliest and warmest of all!
But my first real sit-down-and-chat with him was at Deliverance '98 in Stoke on Trent, where I was MC-ing the event rather nervously, imagining my passing but not detailed knowledge of the show would be rapidly exposed during any interview I undertook. Instead, Gareth told me I probably still knew more than he did (obviously a lie, but a reassuring one) and we hit it off that weekend, despite the fact that he was appalled by the fact I don't drink alcohol. Of course Gareth did. Enough for both of us. And quite a few others! And remarkably, never seemed to get particularly inebriated. I admired that talent as much as I admired his acting. Because oh my goodness, what a talent the man had.
As a child I was aware of him through How Green Was My Valley, Children of the Stones and Star Maidens, as well as Blake. But also Morgan's Boy, an amazing tour de force of a performance that had made me sit up and fall in love with his talents, and his hugely underrated turn in Knights of God (a hugely underrated series, to be honest).
Years later, when I was running Big Finish, we were pulling together our first run of stories featuring Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor and we had an amazing script set in Edwardian England and I needed a really good bluff military type who could be commanding but sympathetic. I emailed Diane Gies and asked her to ask Gareth on my behalf if he'd be up for it. Sure enough, he travelled down from Scotland for two days in Bristol, and gave a wonderful reading - and then discovered the pub next door had three billion types of local cider on tap. Well, that was the Wednesday evening taken care of - and once he'd drunk that place dry, he took me and a couple of others out to dinner (yes he took us, we weren't allowed to pay - I reckon he spent his entire fee that night on us). Again, everyone was running around with sore heads the next day, but Gareth was fine and dandy as he headed back home to Linda. As a result of that, Gareth was aboard as one of our regular actors at BF, doing The Tomorrow People, Dalek Empire and ultimately, long after I'd left, Blake's 7 again.
We briefly saw each other in Cardiff when he came up to do his episode of Torchwood but he was there so quickly, we did little more than a quick hug. The last time I caught up with him was in Los Angeles a couple of years back at Gallifrey One, the big annual Doctor Who convention. He hadn’t changed - the infectious smile, the hugs, the stories, the naughty glint in his eye... He was an utterly professional actor, and a really very good one, but more importantly, he was a bloody lovely man and we're all poorer for his passing.
I'm sure he'd have been (and possibly is) delighted to see how much people loved not just him but his acting. RIP Gareth Thomas - lovely man, very good actor.
I met Gareth in 1981/82 when I wanted to get his autograph and my mother ended up pushing me towards him because I was so shy. I've got lots of autographs in my book over the years and his is my favourite.
Silly I know, but first thing I thought of.
I first met Gareth at Redemption, and we had a brief chat at the bar, but it wasn’t until 2014 that I finally had the opportunity to really get to know him.
He was coming to the Gallifrey convention in LA and after a wee bit of pleading I was assigned Gareth for the weekend. He was arriving into LAX on the Thursday and a massive storm in the North East was causing havoc. Gareth’s flight was one of the few that weren't delayed but, bizarrely, the flight landed at the domestic terminal. I sprinted across only to find a fairly empty reception hall. After about 30 minutes I realised I must have missed him, and was thrown into a complete tizzy. I had lost Blake!
I called one of my colleagues who informed me that Gareth had just strolled into the convention hotel. He kindly waited for me before going up to his room, and was clearly amused at my embarrassment. We had a bloody good laugh at my expense, and then spent the next four days continuing to laugh.
What is it they say? Never meet your heroes? What tosh! He was kind, warm, witty and so, so giving of his time for his entire trip; a memory that I will forever cherish. It’s heartbreaking to think that when we said goodbye that would be the last time I saw him.
Reading the many tributes posted on Facebook last night, this poem came to mind:
Death Is Nothing At All by Henry Scott-Holland
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.
Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
Our many memories of Gareth will never diminish and I shall be forever grateful that I had the opportunity to know this amazing man.
I remember with great fondness Gareth's performances in plays, television, audios and his generosity at conventions not just with his time but happy to buy people a drink, chat and thank them for supporting him over the years.
I still remember with great fondness being stuck with him and David Jackson in a lift at the Deliverance '98 Convention. We were slightly late for a talk, but I figured we were good as he had a full packet of cigarettes and his pint glass was at least half full! Meant we were good for a while!
He was looking more frail in recent years, but nevertheless still gave his time to fans, signed items upon request and was happy to talk and engage with every attendee.
*pours a drink*
Cheers Gareth, thank you for your time, and your devotion to all of your fans.
RIP Gareth. I remember him holding court at the bar at Who's 7 1992, the re-enactment of the Terminal scene at Return To Gauda Prime, and - along with Michael and Brian - staying behind at Cygnus Alpha 2015 to give us the panel.
My tale comes from Who’s 7 1992: I was a penniless student, and to save money, I slept in one of the video rooms, which were screening episodes 24 hours a day. The B7 video releases were nearing completion, but there were still two episodes I hadn’t watched since 1983 – Games and Sand. Therefore, my choice of location to sleep in was the B7 room, waking up halfway through the night when Sand was scheduled.
When I’d left the bar earlier, Gareth was still holding court. At lord knows what time in the morning, he returned to his room and passed the B7 video room and glanced in. It was bizarre being awoken from sleep by the voice of Roj Blake. “You can tell this is the Blake’s 7 video room – they’re all fast asleep!”
Having had the pleasure of spending more than just a fleeting moment at an autograph queue with Gareth, in the form of his guest appearance at Return To Gauda Prime 1 in October 2011 and a pub lunch after a signing in Barking in 2012, I really enjoyed his company, mischievous sense of humour and his ability to chat to just anyone. He made me feel completely at ease in his presence, no pretences or loftiness, he was the 'real deal'.
I feel incredibly proud to have been part of a team that organised an event graced by Gareth's presence and it's an experience I will never forget. I also feel privileged to have been able to see his last stage production, Cadfael. Whilst not his favourite work piece, I did at least get to see him perform live and again is something I will treasure.
Gareth, it was a pleasure to have sat at the same table and 'broken bread' with you. RIP
Mist pales the daffodils,
Their cheery yellow
Frailer lemon now.
Something of course
Continues but, unwelcome,
This reminds that one by
One, sooner or later,
We drop into that
Rough hole in the ground.
Left at last but
You made it a good one:
Beers, laughs, doubts- all
Shared with lovers, friends
And fans. Your work
Both of life and death
That your thread
Wove itself into the
Fabric of our lives,
Adding its richness.
I met Gareth only the once at, of all things, a Babylon 5 convention, where SFX Magazine were also holding an awards ceremony as B5 was the big winner. Creator/writer J. Michael Straczynski was due to receive an award, and who should come on to present it, completely unexpected was Gareth Thomas. Not only that, but he was wearing his costume from Blake complete with appropriate scar! The crowd went wild and JMS, on record as being a B7 fan and cited as an influence on B5, was visibly moved.
A friend of mine was working at the con and was able to slip me backstage so I could briefly meet him, still in costume, and I think it was the most star struck I have ever been! To this day I cannot remember any of the conversation, which probably just consisted of me gushing praise and him saying thanks, but he came across as a very likeable, humble, friendly man.
I will remember Gareth Thomas as a true gentleman, always gracious to his fans. I will cherish his appearance at Cygnus Alpha 1 in 2015 and I will honour his memory every time I watch him in a role on DVD.
Blake's 7 fandom is a family; scattered across the globe - mourning, and yet able to share stories and memories about a man who will forever remain in my/our hearts.
Blake's 7 has always been my favourite programme. First met Gareth at The Alliance Babylon 5 convention in July 1997. When I obtained his autograph and told him I loved Blake's 7 - he kissed my hand. Met him again at Deliverance '98 and was waiting for his talk with David Jackson when they were stuck in the lift. He then chose my daughter, Sharon, to try and outstare during the Q & A. She outstared him. Met him at several more signing events and the Star One conventions. He was such a lovely man and a wonderful actor. Having a day watching my DVDs and last night watched Blake - he said at one event that he liked Blake in that last episode. He always had plenty of time for the fans and said every time we met him that he would not be appearing at these events if it wasn't for all of us.
This picture is the first time we met Gareth, and we felt we had made a friend for life. There is a back story to the wide smiles in this photo: We were at Visions Con, and the camera for the photo shoot had broken down. Gareth was dismissed for a moment.
The camera was fixed in short order and we were sent forward, but no one told Gareth. To his obvious horror, we came upon him behind the screen, cigarette in one hand, unfinished beer in the other. Paula waved a hand and whispered, "Finish your beer, Gareth, and relax, you don't have to be on for us, we're long time fans."
Jokes and handshakes were exchanged, as is obvious from the picture. The next year he was back, and he remembered our names, calling: "Hello Brad and Paula!" from across the room.
One of our meetings with Gareth was particularly memorable. We were in line to have a photo with him at Visions con (Rosemont, Illinois) in the early 1990's and as was usual for me at the time, I'd go up and give the actor a kiss on the cheek. Well, he moved and kissed me right on the lips which left me momentarily disorientated. As we moved together to get the photo taken Gareth grabbed Brad's hand and said in his most emotion-filled actor voice, "I'm NOT going to kiss you!" Which gave us all goofy-grinned smiles for the photo. Such a happy memory for us!
Bless you, Welshman.
"The Earth which you leave is not the end, but the beginning
The journey you have taken is one we all take in time
The world is a bigger place than this plane, knowing no ending
But you, my friend, have ascended to the world of light
You leave us here in the shadows, where we mourn your loss
The evening draws, and we part ways
Close friends and loved ones leave, crying for the bridge they cannot cross
The path of your departure is one of peace and pain
And so we stand here, remembering you and what you stood for
The person you were, the passion for your goals and their ultimate worth
Now you begin your final voyage into the unknown, where you go forth
As we mourn your departure from the Earth."
I had the pleasure of getting to know Gareth when he lived in the Scottish Borders. He was a true gentleman, lived life to the full and never ever let his fame go to his head. I was so sorry to read the news of his passing.
They say you should never meet your heroes. Gareth was my childhood hero, and having met him, I found out early on that all the things I liked about what I’d read about him were really true, only more so. I remember the first time I spoke to him (as an adult), those brown eyes looking at me, and he was this mixture of power, good manners, and a formidable force to be reckoned with, in the body of a gentle, older man who clearly was not in robust health. And not too long later he was telling me about being on a remote hillside with his wife and watching seals.
One of the things I have been feeling most strongly is how grateful I am to have known him at all, and well enough to call him a friend. I consider myself very fortunate. And it’s all too sad that I won’t ever see him again now. And all those questions won’t ever be asked or followed up.
My memories? Sitting in a dressing room talking about how to fit a tonsure with the grafitti’d autographs of stars under the desks, and his dog-eared script so he could refresh his lines for later. The man with the reputation for being private, and yet who was so kind and interested when you spoke to him; and hearing others say the same of him too. And propping up the bar late at night, having the most remarkable and stimulating conversation about monasteries! Gareth pointing at specks in the sky and saying they were red kites. Not what you’d expect of the actor who played the tough and complex Blake, eh?
I’ve seen lots of mentions of Morgan’s Boy on the forum. What I remember is Gareth telling me with a chuckle about a rather long drinking session with a young actor playing a farmhand in Morgan’s Boy who had gone on to become a Hollywood star!
Whilst at school, I went to Twelfth Night to see “Blake” and came away having been mesmerised by Orsino. That experience gave me a love of Shakespeare that has been with me for life. I’m so glad I was able to tell him that. His reply was to the effect that, as an actor, he could be offered no greater tribute. I’ll do it again.
My name is Christopher McKevitt. I am nearly 50. Growing up an only child in an isolated location in Ireland, I lived week to week for Blake's 7. The cast were my friends. I am very sorry that Gareth is gone. He was a huge part in my life. And his message, I think, was that sticking to your principles is the proper thing to do. A gentleman on the Liberator and I am sure a gentleman in real life too. He played a leader who felt like a leader. I did not know until today that Gareth was in Children of the Stones. I literally hid behind the couch for parts of that one. Condolences.
I was fortunate enough to have not only met him as a fan but also professionally when I worked on the ‘Making of Blakes 7’ DVD extras. When we came to do his interview the studio facilities were, shall we say, functional but hardly salubrious. Not a word of complaint from Gareth. He just got on with the job, with a smile and good grace. It was also heartening to see him and Michael (who was filming the same day as Gareth) reminiscing about the show in the green room. There was no bitterness about lack of budget or wobbly sets or any of that nonsense, just fond memories of a show they were once both in.
I was also lucky enough to be one of those who went to see Gareth in Cadfael. He was, as ever, excellent as Brother Cadfael, a part he had always wanted to play. He was obviously exhausted by his performance, but he still came out to have a chat with us afterwards, before returning to his dressing room to prepare to do it all over again that evening.
Gareth Thomas was a man who was genuinely dedicated to his chosen profession and his audience, and I will add my name to the long list of people on this forum who will truly miss him.
In 1989, Diane Gies and I were on our way to an American convention, and Gareth was on the same flight. Back then, there were Smoking and No-Smoking sections of the plane; a stupid system that never really worked. Our non-smoking seats were one row behind the smokers, so we may as well have been sitting next to them. I was able to put up with it, but Diane - allergic to cigarettes at the best of times - was pregnant with Daughter No. 2, and feeling really ill.
Gareth was sitting in Club Class - he had booked an economy seat, but the check-in clerk had recognised him and given him an upgrade. After take-off, a stewardess was alerted to Diane's plight, and made a tannoy announcement asking if someone could please swap seats with a pregnant woman who was too close to the smoking section and feeling unwell. A short while later, Gareth appeared by our seat. “I guessed it was you,” he said to Diane, and insisted on giving up his seat for her, so she could have a comfortable, non-smoking place in Club Class. But as he sat down in her vacated seat, he managed to spill his glass of lemonade over me and I spent the next five hours in slowly-drying stickiness. Gareth was terribly apologetic, but I said that it didn't matter - he had been so kind to Diane. Some lemonade had also spilled over the book I was reading - Tanith Lee's Kill The Dead - that I'd planned to ask Paul Darrow to sign. I joked, "Autographed by Paul, and water-graphed by you!"
My mother lives overseas, and has never seen Blake's 7, but when I told her that Gareth had passed away, she said: "Isn't he the actor who spilled coca cola over you on a plane?"
"It was lemonade," I said, "but fancy you remembering that - it was more than 25 years ago!"
"Ah," she said, "he seemed like such a nice chap."
I was lucky enough to meet Gareth in 2003 at Star One. At the time I was not very well, and during the day needed to be given a room to lie down. I was worried about missing out, but the organisers arranged for him to come to the room and meet me personally, which was lovely of him. He was absolutely lovely to me and very caring.
I met him a few years later at another convention when I was better, and he remembered me, which was very touching. I have a photo taken with him and Paul from Star One in 2003 which I treasure. At the time I had relatives saying I should not have gone as I was too unwell. I am grateful that I did.
Like everyone here, I too wanted to express my sadness at the passing of Gareth. I have always loved Blakes 7 and wish I could have met him in person. The fact that so many people wish to express their feelings means a great deal and is a tribute to him in itself. His memory will live on with us fans. I just wish the BBC had taken more of an interest and dedicated some real air time to this great man and actor. RIP Gareth Thomas.
For various reasons, be they social, professional or "fan" related, I've met a lot of actors in my life. They tend to be a fascinating breed - wildly confident, and yet simultaneously shatteringly insecure; highly-strung and yet often incredibly laid back. Most of them are, in their own highly individual and often charming way, as mad as a box of frogs. Just my view, folks, one you don't have to agree with, and yes, there are exceptions to every rule.
I had the privilege to meet Gareth many, many times over the years - as did many of you, I know. His death saddens me enormously.
I was trying to think of an anecdote that summed Gareth up for me. There are many to choose from, some very funny, some probably best left unspoken, but the one I'd like to share goes like this...
Gareth was one of the guests at a couple of the B7 conventions I co-organised in the '90s, and on one particular occasion word reached me that he wanted to have "a quiet word". Whilst not exactly a summons, there was something about the manner in which the information was imparted that made my heart sink. I was already tired, hungry and incredibly stressed, and trying to deal with too many things at once. Clearly I now had another problem to sort out.
A big, imposing man with A Voice (those who knew him will understand), I really wasn't keen on discovering that something we'd done - or not done - had made him unhappy. I thought that I might actually cry if my suspicions about why he wanted to talk to me turned out to be true...
It turned out to be just a scheduling matter, fairly easily fixed. That's not important. What's important is the fact that Gareth took one look at me and clearly realised I was in desperate need of a hug. He hugged me. Like a bear. He marched me to the bar and bought me a (non-alcoholic) drink. He stood over me and made me drink it. He bought me food and watched me eat it. Both were paid for out of his own pocket, not put on the convention's expenses. He told me to just tell him what I wanted him to do, when and where, and he would do it - but not until he knew I was fed, watered and no longer on the verge of keeling over.
That's the memory of Gareth I'd like to share with you. I hadn't seen him for a while, but that doesn't matter. He wasn't just a good actor, he was a damn good bloke, as well, and that's how I'll remember him.
It was a dark and stormy night (really!!)
A bunch of us had decided to go and see Gareth play King Lear, he was appearing at the Northcott theatre in Exeter which was on the University campus (you'll need this information for later). Arriving at Exeter, we decided that a taxi to the campus would be a good idea. Now for younger folk this was in the days before mobile phones, and the phone boxes were few and far between in the good city of Exeter. Eventually we found one which only accepted BT phone cards, not money. By now the wind was rising, it had started to rain and was pretty unpleasant.
Luckily I suddenly remembered I had bought one of these fabled cards on the usual premise that it might come in handy. It did and we managed to get a taxi to drop us at the campus. Unfortunately, by this time it was, yes you've guessed it, dark and very very stormy with a howling gale blowing.
It transpired, though we didn't know this at the time, that the driver had dropped us off at the back of this very large campus near the IT Labs. There then followed a scene straight out of panto where we were knocking on the security locked doors and gesticulating to any student who would look up to try and persuade them to open the door and give us directions, despite the very large sign on the door saying that the door must not be opened manually and only students with swipe cards can be admitted. Eventually one of them took pity on us and showed us the way.
Arriving at the theatre, we met up with Gareth, and despite the fact that he was about to perform one of the most difficult and taxing roles in Shakespeare he sat in the bar and chatted to everyone until it was past the half. I was the one who was nervous, afraid that a distraught assistant stage manager was about to come out from back stage looking for an errant star. "We must let you go, Gareth," I urged in panic mode. "Plenty of time," Gareth murmured still sipping his pint. Resisting the urge to drag him back stage, he nonchalantly finished his pint and said: "See you all after the show," leaving us about 20 minutes before curtain up.
Now is the time to confess I don't usually like Lear, I find him as a character, vain and foolhardy.
Gareth' s performance blew away all my prejudices, he gave a poignant, touching, regal and magnificent portrayal of a strong man broken. The best and finest Lear it has been my privilege to see. This despite someone leaving a skylight open that banged constantly and ironically during the storm scene and threatened the dialogue. But nothing could diminish the power of his performance and we left the theatre physically and emotionally drained.
Afterwards Gareth joined us again and chatted with everyone and received our plaudits with modesty and characteristic gruff pleasure.
His untimely cruel departure from all of us who knew him not only robbed the stage, TV, radio and screen of a great actor with a superb voice and talent (I still remember sobbing like child at the end of Morgan's Boy) but also left a void personally. He was a sensitive and generous man. Phenomenally well read and intelligent, whose personality could fill rooms and stages to overflowing. I remember with gratitude his wonderful talent and soul and wish he was still here to entertain and enlighten us.
Back in 1978 I fell in love with a TV show and the characters in it. I didn’t know anything about the actors who played those characters, but found myself desperate to know more. Within a fairly short space of time, I was joining some fledgling Blake’s 7 fan clubs and then founding & co-running Horizon, now acknowledged as the Official Blake’s 7 fan club. Horizon began as a small photocopied newsletter in April 1980, evolving into a large glossy magazine in 2001. Nearly four decades since its humble beginnings, it is now an online resource with a growing family of fans still discussing the show and its cast and crew. Over the years I have been fortunate to get to know most of the cast and many of the crew. Including Gareth.
The decision to start Horizon was formed during a day out in Stratford upon Avon back in 1979 where co-founders Pat Thomas, Sharon Eckman & myself had travelled to see an RSC production of ‘Twelfth Night’ with Gareth starring as Orsino. I’d never met Gareth before, nor seen a proper production of a Shakespeare play and was apprehensive about both. Gareth’s performance and the production blew me away and opened my eyes to the wonder of Shakespeare and classical theatre and although we only had a few moments at the stage door to say hello that evening, Gareth was friendly and pleased to learn how much I had enjoyed my first Shakespeare. I’ve heard from many other fans who have had a similar experience – going to the theatre to see ‘Blake’, becoming a fan of Gareth Thomas the actor and by going to see him in many other productions gaining a love for classical theatre.
It was Gareth’s skill and dedication to his craft that made the character of Blake so convincing, and the first episode such compelling viewing. He happily acknowledged that his co-star Paul Darrow, who played the brooding anti-hero Avon, was ‘the pretty one’ and indeed Avon was the show’s most popular character. But Gareth was surprised and flattered to learn that in the club's 10th anniversary survey of over 1,000 members Blake was the third most popular character in the series.
Gareth was guest of honour at more conventions than I can remember, all over the UK, Europe, the USA (particularly Chicago and New York), Australia and New Zealand. Some conventions are held in posh hotels, some in holiday camps and some in church halls – Gareth attended all of them with equal delight and charm. He was always happy to join the fans in the bar until late at night. He would never leave an autograph area until every single fan had met him and received his autograph, however long the queue and however tired he was by the end. He was supportive and happy to help raise money for charity by signing things, recording interviews, reading poems or stories and donating items for auctions and raffles.
In 1993, Gareth was invited to be the celebrity guest at a small version of the Ideal Home Exhibition in Harrow, near where I lived. It was a three day event, at which I was offered the chance to run a Fan Club stand, handing out publicity flyers and selling merchandise. With two small children, I wasn’t able to look after the stand for three full days, even with help from other fans.
“I’ll run your stand for you,” offered Gareth – and he did a splendid job, recruiting several new members and selling fan club merchandise. My four year old daughter was a bit scared of him and in attempt to appear less scary he cuddled her older sister’s doll – a photo opportunity I couldn’t resist and one of my most treasured pictures of Gareth ‘off duty’.
I fondly remember some of our special outings. In 1997, a dozen of us fans went to Glasgow to watch the recording of a comedy quiz show called Space Cadets. The teams were made up of a couple of celebrities, together with some sci-fi boffins to answer most of the questions. But Gareth proved to be very knowledgeable, and answered many questions for his team who went on to win the quiz.
“We’ll go for a quick drink to the pub to celebrate” he said to our happy group. The 'quick drink' turned into several hours of dinner and drinks with us all.
There was the fantastic 1999 Welsh Weekend: a group of South East based fans drove to Cardiff in a minibus, meeting up there with another twenty local fans, to see Gareth in the matinee of a play called The Hosts of Rebeccah. This was preceded by getting together in a local bar, where Gareth chatted to us while also watching an important rugby match – I remember him breaking off in mid-sentence to join in the roar of approval when Wales scored. Afterwards, the minibus drove on to Swansea for an evening performance of Guards Guards starring Gareth's fellow B7 cast member Paul Darrow, and on the way home we had a a location visit to Oldbury Power Station.
In the early 2000s Gareth starred in a play called Moving Objects which was written specially for him by author/producer Mark Thompson. It won the First Fringe award in that year's Edinburgh Festival. Gareth was playing a little old Jewish man and he asked me to help him research the role. He borrowed for a stage prop my late father’s prayer book. He said afterwards that he had been nervous about performing this in front of my mother and myself in case he wasn’t convincing in the part. My mum told him: “We were definitely convinced - you were just like some of my uncles,” which Gareth said was possibly the highest compliment he’d ever received on his acting.
There was an occasion when I had organised a group theatre outing to see Gareth play the fearsome but flawed Judge Danforth in The Crucible. He invited me to have lunch with him earlier in the afternoon, and whilst talking animatedly I spilled my drink all over the table. Gareth roared with laughter and helped me mop it up. As I watched the show later, I was totally immersed in the excellent production, terrified by this man with a voice of iron and frightening grimness. There was no sign of the jovial man I’d just lunched with – it reminded me how brilliant an actor he was. I mentioned this to him after the show, and he shrugged and said, "Well, it’s just acting." But I never saw him give a bad, or even a ‘just ok’ stage performance; he worked hard to give his all to every performance. It was a great privilege to have seen him in so many wonderful productions.
Gareth was a kind, generous, thoughtful and considerate man to his fans and his colleagues and friends. A true gentleman who will be very greatly missed. Not least by me.